Jan Timman celebrates his 70th birthday


Jan Timman: A remarkable chess career

At the age of eight, Timman learned chess from his father Reinier Timman, a mathematician. The father owned a sizable chess library that contained many old chess books written before World War II. Timman’s first ambition was to defeat his older brother Ton (1948-2016). After Jan had managed this regularly, Ton no longer wanted to play against his younger brother and Jan joined a chess club. At the age of twelve, Timman played against ex-world champion Max Euwe simultaneously and draw.

Timman had a special relationship with Euwe. Euwe was Timman’s mother’s math teacher and the families knew each other well. When Timman’s great chess talent became apparent, Euwe found supporters who founded a “Timman Committee” to give Timman the financial backing to eventually become a professional chess player.

Timman’s first trainer was IM Hans Bouwmeester. The two trained every Wednesday afternoon, the only afternoon when there was no school. Bouwmeester loved the games of Botvinnik and Smylov, and Botvinnik became an ideal chess ideal for Timman too.

At the age of 15, Timman first attracted international attention when he finished third at the U20 World Cup in Jerusalem in 1967. In 1970 Timman decided to become a professional chess player and a year later, in 1971, he became an International Master. Another three years later, in 1974, Timman became a grandmaster.

Timman and Hans Böhm in Biel 1969 | Photo: HansBohm.com

Between 1974 and 1996 Timman won the Dutch national championship nine times. He participated regularly and with great success in international tournaments and won in Hastings 1973/74, Amsterdam 1978, Nikšić 1978, Amsterdam 1981, Las Palmas 1981, Wijk aan Zee 1981, Mar del Plata 1982, Bugojno 1984, Bugojno 1984, Wijk aan Zee 1985, Amsterdam 1985, Tilburg 1987, Linares 1988, Amsterdam 1989, Hoogeveen 1999 and Malmö / Copenhagen 2005, to name just a few.

In 1979 he played his first interzonal tournament in Rio de Janeiro, but narrowly missed the qualification for the candidates. The top three qualified for the contestants, but Timman finished fourth. Three years later, in the next cycle, he failed again to qualify for the candidates, but in 1985 he won the interzonal tournament and became a candidate, but lost in the quarter-finals of the Candidates against Artur Yusupov.

In 1987 Timman won the interzonal tournament in Tilburg and qualified again for the candidates’ tournament. But after beating Valery Salov, Lajos Portisch and Jonathan Speelman, Timman lost in the Candidates Final to Karpov in 990.

In the next cycle, Timman won his candidate matches against Robert Huebner, Viktor Korchnoi and Artur Jussupow, but then lost the candidate final, this time against Nigel Short.

But when Kasparov and Short decided to play their 1993 World Cup game outside of FIDE, Timman had the chance to play for the FIDE title as FIDE organized a replacement World Cup game between Timman and Karpov. Here, however, Timman lost again to Karpov.

In January 1982 Timman was the official number two in the world, behind world champion Karpov. However, Timman reached his Elo peak in 1990 with a rating of 2680.

In addition to his impressive career as a player, Timman was and is also active as an author and journalist. He is the editor of New in Chess magazine and has written a number of successful and critically acclaimed books. In addition, Timman is also a prolific and renowned study composer.

Timman loves music and literature, especially the Russian classics like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. He also enjoys reading the works of Borges and Kafka.

Timman counts his victory over Karpov at the tournament in Mar del Plata in 1982 as one of his best games.


Composition tournament “Timman-70”

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